What is an Anaesthetist?- Discover More About Anaesthetists

The Anaesthetist has a critical role

Since the first public display of anaesthesia in 1846, modern medicine has been able to perform more complex and invasive operations than ever before. The complexity of these surgeries has required the experience of a specially trained group of medical specialists to perform anaesthesia and make the impossible possible- the Anaesthetist. This article provides an excellent overview of valuable information regarding who Anaesthetists are and a fundamental understanding of an Anaesthetist meaning. Learn the role of an anaesthetist and the journey to become an anaesthetist. 

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What is Anaesthesia?

If we look at the etymology of the word “anaesthesia,” we’d see that it’s comprised of two Greek words: "an" which means "without" and "aesthesis" which means "sensation".

The term 'Anaesthesia' means the practice of administering medications in several ways, either by injection or inhalation, that will cause your body to block all feelings of pain and other sensations, including a deep state of unconsciousness. This allows doctors to perform medical and surgical processes without causing you pain, discomfort, or distress.

Anaesthesia can be divided into 3 main categories:

  • Sedation
  • Regional Anaesthesia
  • General Anaesthesia

What is an Anaesthetist?

Anaesthetist Meaning: An Anaesthetist is a specialist doctor (fully qualified) who trains for many years to be responsible for providing anaesthesia to patients for operations and procedures. They are also responsible at the same time for the safety and well-being of the patient. This involves supporting a patient's vital signs, ensuring the patient is hydrated, warm and comfortable at the conclusion of the procedure. In addition, anaesthetists have a range of practice which extends beyond anaesthesia for surgery to include pain management and intensive care. 

After completing a medical degree and several years of general hospital training, an anaesthetist spends 5 years undergoing specialist training with the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, gaining professional knowledge and expert skills in the speciality of anaesthesia.

Anaesthetist Vs Anaesthesiologist

  Doctors who practice the speciality of Anaesthesia (Anesthesia) are referred to as Anesthesiologists in most areas of the world. In fact, it is the most widespread global term to refer to medically specialised doctors who practice medicine in the field of Anaesthesia. Some examples of these countries who have practising Anesthesiologists are the USA and China. 

  In countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, doctors who practise the speciality of Anaesthesia, are referred to Anaesthetists. In Australia, all anaesthetics are given by medically qualified anaesthetists (doctors). This contrasts to the United States of America where 'Nurse Anesthetists' work in collaboration with anesthesiologists to ensure anesthesia is practised in a safe manner. 

Are They Doctors? 

Anaesthetists in Australia and the UK are specialist medical doctors who have acquired professional skills in the speciality of Anaesthesia. These doctors remain present throughout a patients operation to ensure that they remain safe and with minimal pain after the operation. 

In addition to completing a medical degree in University, Anaesthetists need to complete many years in further training to specialise in practising Anaesthesia.

  In the United States of America, many hospitals have nurse Anesthetists. These are nurses who perform anesthesia on patients in conjunction with Anesthesiologists- who are specialist doctors (expert doctors in the field of anesthesia). 

What Do They Do?  

Patients who need an operation that requires an anaesthetic will have an anaesthetist who helps them through the entire process. Below is additional information for people wondering what does an Anaesthetist do?

Prior to the anaesthetist performing the anaesthetic, the anaesthetist will need to spend some time with the patient to get a better understanding of the patient’s medical conditions and health status. This information will be utilised by the Anaesthetist to determine what type of anaesthetic would be best for the patient and whether any extra form of monitoring or equipment may be necessary. 

What are their duties during an Operation?

The anaesthetist will be with the surgeon during the operation checking on the patient’s vital signs and other critical indicators to adjust the dosage of anaesthetic medications and introduce other medications to keep the patient safe. It is not uncommon during an operation for the Anaesthetist to manipulate vital signs in an effort to make the surgery possible for the surgeon.

During the surgery, the Anaesthetist will be vigilant in ensuring no harm comes to the patient. This involves:

  1. making sure no objects are applying any pressure on the patient's body
  2. the patient blood loss is minimised, and if required commencing a blood transfusion
  3.  administering analgesia to ensure the patient awakes comfortable
  4. ensuring the patient remains warm throughout the procedure
  5. maintaining vital signs within a normal range

How safe is having an Anaesthetic?

It is extremely safe to get general anaesthesia in Australia and New Zealand, which are two of the safest places in the world to get these procedures done. With the amount of specialist education that goes into training specialist Anaesthetist doctors in Australia and New Zealand, these two countries actually have one of the best patient safety records in the world. In addition, the increase of research and new knowledge in the area of Anaesthesia assures that the outstanding safety record that Anaesthetists provides remains.  

This is why hospitals have anaesthetists. Many of today's operations are made possible as a result of developments in anaesthesia and the training of specialist anaesthetist doctors.

Do they have any other Roles?

With all that training, anaesthetists are critical to many different types of teams and medical services that help patients stay healthy.

Importantly, they are also a critical component in resuscitating acutely unwell patients. For example, they would help trauma victims stay alive. They also manage patients who may be suffering from pain, whether acute or chronic. 

What are their Qualifications?

All Anaesthetists in Australia have studied and been awarded a diploma of the fellowship of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, and are  Fellows of the College. Fellowship of the college allows them to use the initials 'FANZCA' after their name. In addition, all Anaesthetists are doctors who have a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree.

What are the Training Requirements?

Step 1  - Complete a medical degree

In order to become an anaesthetist, you would have to first become a doctor. As you might know, becoming a doctor requires a lot of vigorous training. It, of course, depends on the track you decide to take -- you could either go into a five to six-year medical degree directly out of high school to finish medical school or finish an undergraduate bachelor’s degree before applying. You have to pass rigorous standardised tests to even get into medical school. Being admitted to medical school depends not just test scores, but also interviews as well.

Step 2 - Internship

After graduating from a university medical degree, in pursuit of becoming an Anaesthetist, doctors will need to embark on an internship at an accredited hospital for one year. During their time they must complete:

  • a term of at least eight weeks that provides experience in emergency medical care 
  • a term of at least 10 weeks that provides experience in medicine
  • a term of at least 10 weeks that provides experience in surgery, and
  • a range of other approved terms to make up 12 months (minimum of 47 weeks full-time equivalent service).

Step 3 - Residency

After completing a years internship, doctors will then commence their training within an accredited hospital as a 'Resident'. As a Resident doctor, they will work in a more specific branch of medicine, including gaining their first exposure to the speciality of Anaesthesia. During this time the doctors will be under the supervision of more specialised doctors, including specialist Anaesthetists.

Step 4 - Vocational training

On completing the doctor's Residency year/s, a doctor can apply to enter an Anaesthetic training program. The Anaesthetic training program is conducted by ANZCA, who is responsible for the doctors training, examination and accreditation of anaesthetists in Australia and New Zealand. This training will take a minimum of five years. 

Because of how complex clinical anaesthesia is, you not only have to fully understand how the body works (which is physiology) and also how medications affect the body (pharmacology). This knowledge is necessary for anticipating how different bodies may respond to anaesthesia and how that might affect a patient’s health. They additionally have to understand the surgery itself in order to perform their duty.

How Long is Anaesthetic Training?

Anaesthetists undergo a minimum of twelve to fifteen years of training before they are allowed to help you with your operations. That is so so much time. They spend about as much time getting a general education as they do in primary and high school! That’s about 1/3 of their life that they may be spending in training and school just to make sure that you as a patient get the best care you can get.

The time taken after high school to become an anaesthetist can be summarised below:

  • Medical school (4-6 years)
  • Internship (1 year)
  • Residency (2 years)
  • Fellowship of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetist (training program) (5 years)

Is There Any Ongoing Training?


With the quick pace of today’s medical, you might be wondering how an anaesthetist stays up to date on the most recent studies and knowledge. You might be wondering how anaesthetists can keep their skills updated and sharp after leaving the classroom and training programs. This is critical because you don’t want people to be using old techniques when you know there are better and safer ways to get the same results!

Actually, in order to keep their fellowship and keep practising as the specialist doctors that they are, anaesthetists are required to participate in a kind of professional development program. The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists manages and puts together a whole series of scientific meetings. These meetings are where many new technologies and research findings and techniques are presented to the anaesthetists of New Zealand and Australia. These meetings and conferences are also not only for locals -- many international experts also attend and present at these meetings as well.

In addition to the meetings, the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists also runs Anaesthetist courses and anaesthetist workshop programs under Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists’ Education Development unit. These Anaesthetist workshops help anaesthetists learn new skills in a more hands-on way. This is how the members of Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists stay on top of the newest innovations and developments of the modern medical world.

What is an Anaesthetist Salary?

An Anaesthetist salary varies greatly depending on whether the Anaesthetist is employed in the public system or works independently in private practice.

  An Anaesthetist salary in private practice is not paid by a single entity, but by multiple sources such as a patient, Medicare Australia and Health funds. 

Of course, if you have any specific questions about a procedure that you’re going to have done or about anaesthesia, you should definitely confer with your anaesthetist. As doctors, they are there to help you stay healthy and well, so don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you may have. 

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